DENVER, Colorado — A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction protecting two Colorado churches and their pastors from enforcement of the state's capacity limits and mask-wearing executive orders during worship services. Judge Daniel D. Domenico issued the order on Thursday as part of a lawsuit brought by the Denver Bible Church and the Community Baptist Church.
The litigation challenges the capacity limits placed on houses of worship for being more stringent than those allowed to other businesses. Additionally, many businesses are exempt from enforcing the mask order but churches are not.
In his order, Judge Dominico states his belief that state leaders made their decisions in good faith to balance the benefits of public interaction with the added risk of spreading the virus.
“But the Constitution does not allow the State to tell a congregation how large it can be when comparable secular gatherings are not so limited, or to tell a congregation that its reason for wishing to remove facial coverings is less important than a restaurant’s or spa’s,” Domenico wrote.
The churches and their pastors are represented by attorneys Rebecca Messall of the Thomas More Society and co-council Brad Berford.
"The lawsuit calls both the federal government and Colorado leaders into account for their violations of the right to free exercise of religion, among other abuses of power, primarily resulting from Governor Jared Polis’ COVID-19 related Executive Orders,” Messall said.
Judge Domenico's order further states the First Amendment does not allow government officials to treat religious worship as any less critical or essential than other human endeavors.